A misdirected airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition earlier this week killed 18 allied fighters battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria, the U.S. military said Thursday.
U.S. Central Command said coalition aircraft were given the wrong coordinates by their partner forces, the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, for a strike intended to target IS militants south of their Tabqa stronghold, near the extremists’ de facto capital, Raqqa.
The strike hit an SDF position instead, killing 18. Central Command said the strike was launched Tuesday.
Several nations have lent their air power to the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group. It was not clear which air force was behind the strike.
The SDF acknowledged the strike on Thursday, saying a number of its fighters were killed and wounded.
The SDF-linked Hawar News Agency reported the group was holding funerals for 17 of its fighters in the border town of Tal al-Abyad, though it did not link them to the strike. An activist-run group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, says three days of mourning have been declared for the town. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 25 SDF fighters were killed in the last two days of battle.
The SDF meanwhile announced the launch of a fourth phase of their campaign to capture Raqqa, a Euphrates River city that is home to 300,000 people.
The SDF, with U.S.-led air and ground support, has surrounded Tabqa, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Raqqa. They say they are working to clear Islamic State militants out of Jalab Valley, north of Raqqa.
The SDF says it wants to isolate Raqqa before attacking it. Their closest position is less than 8 kilometers (5 miles) northeast of the city. But the countryside south of Raqqa is still under IS control. It is unclear how many stages are planned for the campaign.
Story by the Associated Press